Alaska Ranger Board of Investigation Conducts Sixth Day of Testimony

DUTCH HARBOR, Alaska – The board reconvened Tuesday afternoon after taking testimony from Makoto Oide and Takamitsu Abe, two of the technicians aboard the Alaska Ranger in the morning.

The board began the afternoon session by questioning David Morris of Pueblo, Colo. Morris was a processor onboard the Alaska Ranger since 2005.

Morris was responsible for stacking the full fish pans in the freezer, keeping a tally of the amount of fish onboard and what species they were. Morris said the Alaska Ranger had sailed from Dutch Harbor to catch yellowfin sole (previously reported as yellowfin tuna). After two days they returned to Dutch Harbor to change gear to fish for Atka mackerel. There were over 4,000 cases of sole onboard.

The rest of Morris’s testimony reflected what other witnesses have said.

Following Morris the board called Eric Haynes, of Las Vegas, the cook aboard the Alaska Ranger. Haynes has been with the Fishing Company of Alaska since 1994. He estimates serving 2,500 to 3,000 days at sea. All but three weeks have been aboard the Alaska Ranger.

He took charge and got the crew organized to abandon ship.

Haynes went to the wheelhouse when the phones started to ring incessantly. He was told there was flooding. He went to the lower deck and “got people moving”. When he retuned to the wheelhouse Dan Cook, the chief engineer, was doubled over and breathing very hard.

Haynes took muster for his raft – number three. All crewmembers were accounted for.

Haynes said his survival suit was a little small for him, tight in the shoulders. The crew donned survival suits in the wheelhouse. Due to the noise level they made the captain had the crew stand by their life rafts on deck after their survival suits were on.

Haynes suggested rotating the crew through the wheelhouse to stay warm. He had three shifts rotate through. Each was in the wheelhouse for five minutes.

After the ship took a starboard list, 40 degrees Haynes estimated, the captain directed the crew to launch the life rafts. Some of the crew didn’t know how. Haynes took a hold of the strap around the raft and using two gloved hands held the clip on the hook down while another crewman pulled the other end of the strap loose and the life raft was freed.

Once the rafts were launched Haynes said they “looked like a motorboat towing an inner tube.” He said the rafts traveled toward the bow of the vessel.

Haynes and two other crewmen tried to pull the painter line of the life raft to pull it to them but there was too much strain on the line. He said the line actually cut through the gloves of his suit.

With the rafts inaccessible Haynes knew the crew needed to get off the sinking vessel. He directed everyone to the Jacob’s ladders and to get in the water. “Let’s get going guys,” he said. “You’re going in one way or another.”

Haynes saw one life raft nearby and he jumped from the vessel in an attempt to intercept it. He was able to grab the painter line but it pulled him under the water for a few seconds. When he got to the raft he found Joshua Esa floating face down and immediately flipped him over.  Haynes was able to get into the raft, and with great effort and the help of another crewmember was able to pull Esa into the raft.  Esa soon revived and survived the incident.

There were ten men in the raft.  Haynes said they drifted in the raft trying to call out to the flashing lights they saw around them in the water. The seas became so rough that they had to close the raft to prevent water coming into it.

When they opened it the Alaska Warrior was outside. The crew of the Alaska Warrior hooked onto the raft. Haynes said that was the first time he was scared. The raft began to heave up and down, lurch around, tossing the men around. They called out to the Alaska Warrior to cut them free and let the Coast Guard rescue them.

Haynes grabbed onto a ladder from the Alaska Warrior and tried to climb up but the ladder was rising and falling with the seas, and threw him into the water.

“I thought I was gone,” said Haynes. A wave picked him up and threw him back on to the ladder. Haynes said he put a bear hug on the ladder. The Alaska Warrior used the crane on board to pull the ladder on deck. He said once on deck he couldn’t walk and one of the Alaska Warrior’s crew, a Samoan, picked Haynes up and carried him to the galley on his back.

In the galley two women onboard the Warrior wrapped him in blankets and gave him coffee. He said he was shaking so much he couldn’t hold the coffee cup.

By the time Haynes heard more of his crewmates being brought on deck he was ready to help. The crew used blankets and potatoes warmed in the microwave and wrapped in towels to warm people.

They attempted CPR on two of their crewmates (Haynes has been certified in CPR three times).  Their efforts were unsuccessful.

The board called Indio Sol of Everett, Wash. Sol has been a processor for eight and a half years. He’s worked on the Alaska Ranger on and off since 2003.

Sol has had formal safety training and was part of the emergency squad. He was the first crewman off the vessel down the Jacob’s ladder.  “I thought it would be like in drills but I went skipping like a stone,” said Sol. He had shot forward toward the bow as soon as he hit the water. Sol did get into a life raft.

The rest of his testimony reflected what other crewmembers have said.

In the afternoon the board recalled Rodney Lundy, first assistant engineer on the Alaska Ranger. Lundy had been onboard the Alaska Ranger for 11 years.

The board asked for more detail into Lundy’s experience and training in damage control. Lundy said his experience had been shipboard during drills.

The board proceeded to get more detail about the engineering systems – particularly the hydraulics. They confirmed the aft ballast tanks were full or “pressed” with saltwater.

The board asked about the Alaska Ranger’s shipyard period in Japan. Lundy said he inspected the ballast tanks with the Coast Guard inspectors, yard personnel and the technicians.

Lundy said they had found one crack in the starboard forward tank and that it had been repaired. He also said that the dividing bulkhead between the stern ballast tanks was intact. Lundy said the shaft work and electrical had been redone two years before.

The board asked for more clarification as to what the chlorine log was that Lundy previously testified he was writing in when the alarm sounded.

The board also asked for clarification of the timeline of events. Lundy said the crew’s discussions about the possibility of a rudder falling off originated with him. He had thought maybe the rudder had come off for that that much water to have flooded the ramp room. Later he realized that the jockey bar between the rudders was still in place so it could not have been a lost rudder.

The board was concerned specifically with how water flowed between the rudder room and the ramp room if the deck was tight.  Lundy said that there may have been penetrations beneath the transformers but he did not know how they were sealed.

The board asked Lundy if he had used alcohol during his time on the Ranger. Lundy said he had used alcohol in port and at sea but not on watch. He said he knew the company had a no tolerance policy. Lundy said he had never been drunk on watch.

The board ended the day with Karl Machalek, owner of Alpha Welding in Dutch Harbor.

Machalek’s company has done work on the Alaska Ranger for many years. He has worked on 50 percent of the vessels in Dutch Harbor and all the Fishing Company of Alaska boats. In the last year the ship received a new factory in Japan. Alpha Welding helped work out the bugs in the hydraulic piping and installed new gratings in the factory.

They installed two watertight doors on the trawl deck and replaced gaskets in a few hatches. Work was conducted on the inner transverse bulkhead of the bow and the ballast tank in the forepeak. More work was scheduled in the forepeak but had not been completed. They have never done work to the watertight envelop of the ship – the outer hull.

Machalek also said the Fishing Company of Alaska was good about fixing problems on their vessels.

The board will reconvene Thursday at 8 a.m. and take two witnesses from the Coast Guard before departing Dutch Harbor. The board anticipates resuming at the Hilton Hotel in Anchorage at 8 a.m. Saturday.

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